Thursday, October 7, 2010

First Impressions of LIFE Guide to Digital Photography by Joe McNally

I'm a fan of Joe McNally and read his blog all the time.  When news came out that Joe was publishing a how-to book on photography -- the LIFE Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros, I pre-ordered it right away.  Got my copy today, and I have to say that from perusing it, I'm kinda disappointed. 

Perhaps I should have gotten a clue from the subtitle.  I mean do you really expect to learn "everything you need to shoot like pros" in one book?  This book tries to do it all in 236 pages: lighting (including exposure), choosing lenses, composition, color.  From the breadth of the coverage, you can expect it to be very general.  As I said, I haven't finished reading it, but so far it seems so general as to be not useful.  Kinda like friendly tips.  But nothing solid enough to use in the real world. 

Take for instance the chapter on flash, which is the first chapter I jumped into (this is Joe McNally after all).  It has no mention whatsoever of TTL, or flash exposure compensation, or manual flash.  Or how to get any kind of specific result.  Sure, there are photos and exposure data, but no info about how that exposure was chosen, or what the rationale was.  Another example: it mentions off-camera flash but doesn't seem to mention anywhere how to use the flash off-camera or what the sync options are (wired or optical or radio). Yet another example: it talks about using the flash to bounce but doesn't say where to bounce the flash from.  The sample photo's shadows implies that the flash was bounced to high camera left, but the photo showing the flash in bounce position points straight up.  It's as though there's no intention to actually teach how to achieve results.

I plan to read it eventually but right now my impression of it is that it's just a coffee table book with pretty pictures and friendly but very general advice.  Maybe that first impression will be proven wrong... :-/